by Zena Henry
An audit of operational procedures of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) by the Auditor General’s (AG) Office has exposed a number of missteps in the agency’s procurement process leading up to the 21015 General and Regional Elections but officials have hit back this week, saying they were operating in unusual circumstances given the fact that Parliament was suddenly prorogued and they had had less than 90 days to get cracking.
The AG’s office, in its soon to be released report seen by this publication, complained about a small number of un-serviceable mobile radio sets that GECOM had in its stockpile but officials say that a heat build-up in the storage facility might have been the reason for this as some radio parts had corroded. Air conditioned units have since been installed at GECOM’s East Coast Demerara facility to ensure stable temperature control.
GECOM has been without a Chairman since Dr. Steve Surujbally retired and officially departed at the end of February, 2017. Officials say that for future elections, the question of whether GECOM should rent or own equipment used every three and five years would have to be fully debated by a full Commission with a new chairperson. President David Granger is yet to name a Chairman from among three lists of 18 persons that have been submitted so far by Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo.
Auditors also slapped Gecom on the wrists for not opening the tender process to all and sundry. GECOM has countered that it again had only 90 days to complete all the constitutional steps for the General and Regional elections and so had to turn to traditional suppliers with whom it had a history given the time constraints. The contract for the radios was awarded to the lowest bidder, Brassonics.
In normal circumstances, GECOM is given six months to complete the full constitutional process including organizing the claims and objections period, publishing a preliminary and official voters list, supervising Nominations Day and actually running systems on elections day with all the required equipment, radio sets, alternative power systems, toners for heavy duty printers etc.
The AG’s audit had also questioned the authenticity of quotations for equipment from the Guyana branch of Massy saying it had looked suspicious. Insiders contend that the quotations came with Company stamps and were on official letterheads. The AG is expected to make his report public soon and has suggested that “appropriate disciplinary action be taken against any culpable officer or officers for negligence or wrongdoing and the Guyana Police Force should be called in to conduct an in-depth investigation with a view to instituting charges if criminal offences are deemed to have been committed.”